4 Tips To Help Shrink Your Grocery Bill

By : | 5 Comments | On : June 11, 2012 | Category : Top Tips

Grocery Bill

Let’s be honest, eating like a bodybuilder ain’t cheap.  Consuming large amounts of high quality fresh food each and every day produces ‘scary’ grocery bills.

But with a little bit of ‘smart’ shopping,  you can make a big difference in your food costs without compromising on quality.

Here’s 4 simple, practical tips that will help shrink your grocery bill.

#1 Pounce On The Supermarket Deals

Generally speaking buying a larger quantity of an item usually means you get more for your money, i.e. the price per item is lower the more you buy. Bulk buying is particularly suited to bodybuilders as we tend to eat large quantities of the same food (chicken, tuna, rice etc).

There's some bargains to be had amongst the supermarket deals

Supermarkets are always running deals on selected items, it’s a common strategy to keep customers coming back, looking for the bargains. The offers are rotated regularly so pretty much every item will be on offer at some point.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, take time to look for the special offers & deals such as “BOGOF” (Buy One Get One Free, you’ve gotta love supermarket sales spiel) and “buy 2 and get 3rd free” etc. Also keep you eyes peeled for items being sold in the largest quantities and multi packs.

These offers and deals can often be a real bargain so take full advantage when you see your usual items on sale. Buy as much as you can affordstore as the offersdeals typically only last for a few weeks.

But be aware, just because an item is on offer doesn’t mean that it really is the best deal – don’t take the sales banner as gospel. It may actually be cheaper to buy several single items than say the ‘6 pack’ offer.

Here’s an example for you that happened to me a few weeks back.

I was looking to buy my usual tinned tuna (in brine) at my local supermarket and there was 3 different ways I could buy, as below:

Item Cost £ £/100g
3 x 80g (multi pack) £2.10 £0.88
1 x 185g £1.89 £1.02
3 x 185g (multi pack) £5.29 £0.95

Now you’d normally assume the larger multi pack (3x185g) to be the best offer but as you can see, it’s actually the smaller (3x80g) which turns out to be the better deal.

The largest buying option isn’t necessarily always the best offer, you’ll need to do some mental arithmetic to calculate the cheapest way to buy a particular item. If maths isn’t your strong point then do what I do, use a calculator. Your mobile will almost certainly have at least a simple calculator installed or you can download a free one if you own a smart phone. I use mine whenever I go grocery shopping so when I spot a deal, I can quickly and accurately calculate the very best offer available.

By making the best choice in tuna from the example above, I saved myself 7p/100g. Not a huge amount of cash I know but given that I usually go through at least 1kg of tuna per week, that works out to be over £36/year. That’s a very welcome saving on just one item and all just by taking a little time to determine the real best offer.

To finish off my story, I was in the supermarket the following week, I wasn’t actually shopping for tuna but I noticed that the 1 x185g tins were on a “2 for 1” offer which works out as 51p/100g tuna. That’s a whopping saving of 37p/100g over the previously cheapest offer.

Needless to say, I bought in bulk, in fact 3 months worth!, (got some funny looks at the till I can tell you), and saved  myself some £42 on 3 months supplies – bargain!

Buying your regular food items in bulk may only save you pennies in the pound but given how much you spend on groceries, this saving can work out be quite significant. Although not a regular occurrence, offers such as BOGOF can present a considerable saving and are something you should be looking out for and taking advantage of.

#2 Strike a Deal with Your Local Butcher/Greengrocer

As good as the special offers from you local supermarket can be, they are only fleeting with any individual promotion lasting only a few weeks. I do advise you take advantage of these offers when they appear and buy as much as you can affordstore but these deals aren’t always around.

You could save yourself a tidy packet buying your meat from your local butcher

There’s generally no room for negotiating with the supermarkets, especially the larger chains. I’ve neither tried nor witnessed haggling a bulk purchase discount at the checkouts, chances are any such behaviour would only be met with disbelief!  The price you see is the price you pay, if what you want isn’t on offer – tough luck.

There is however, room for negotiating on price with your local family run butcher/greengrocer.

Sadly, independent local butcher/greengrocer stores are shrinking in number day by day, (mostly thanks to the aforementioned supermarkets). However, the good news for you is that these stores are usually are very keen for your business, especially if you’re buying in bulk.

First thing you need to do is sit down and work out just exactly how much of a particular item you generally go through in a given period (week, fortnight, month). Next, visit your local butcher/greengrocer and ask to speak to the owner/manager. Briefly explain your situation (bodybuilder, strict diet etc.)

Please don’t feel embarrassed about doing this, you’re not being ‘cheeky’ or ‘tight-fisted’. You’re offering to put a fair amount of business their way (at least compared to their average customer) and you’re simply looking for the best price.

Striking such a deal should easily result in shaving £50+ off your monthly grocery bill.

In my case, I was able to strike a good deal with my local butcher for the regular purchasing of some 15Kg of chicken per month. After explaining my situation to the owner and my expected monthly quantity, he immediately offered me a reduction of £1.50/Kg for chicken. So there was a saving of over £22 per month on chicken alone.

When I pop in every month, my butcher is always very pleased to see, serves me himself and usually throws in an extra chicken breast or two.

Now you’re unlikely to be able to haggle the same sort of bargain that you can find on offer at the supermarkets. The latter’s buying power give them huge negotiation advantage with the suppliers. But, if you cut a deal with your local butchergreengrocer, then hopefully it will be in place a lot longer than the fleeting supermarket offers.

Personally, I still prefer to source most of my bulk purchases from my local butcher and greengrocer.  The offers at the supermarket may be the best on price but I like knowing my produce is locally grown and should also be fresher (hopefully with fewer pesticides as it travels for less).

#3 Minimize Your Wastage

A study by the University of Arizona shows that the average household wastes some 14% of food purchased. This is due mainly to food not being consumed before its use by date.

The average US household wastes some 14% of food - makes you wanna cryGiven that you probably spend an awful lot more than the average person on groceries, chances are that you are wasting even more than this.

So a quick and simple way of instantly saving cash on your grocery bill is to minimize the amount of food you waste. This alone could be saving you around 15% of you costs.

Here’s a few of my best tips to help keep your food waste to a minimum:

Prepare your meals in advance

By knowing exactly what you’ll be eating over the next several days, you’ll know precisely the amount of food items you need to buy on your next shopping trip.  Buying only what you need is the best way to minimize wastage.

There’s also many other benefits to the bodybuilder in preparing your meals in advance, have a read of this article for some great tips.

Buy your vegetables frozen

Frozen Vegtables - it's the futureUs bodybuilders go through and an awful lot a fresh vegetables each and every day (I’m currently consuming some 400g+/day). Unless you’re willing to pop to the local supermarketgreengrocer every day then you’ll need to stockpile several days worth at home.

Even refrigerated, shelf life for vegetables isn’t great, ranging from 1-2 days for ‘green veg ‘ such as broccoli & green beans and up to 7+ days for more hardy vegetable such as carrots and onions.

So your choices are to buy enough for your needs and live with the probable waste, or, under buy to ensure no wastage but will probably run out of vegetables.

Both scenarios are unwanted, but, fortunately, are avoidable.

Enter frozen vegetables!

Frozen vegetables are nothing new and have been around for some time but advances in freezing equipment, transportation and storage have made frozen vegetables a viable alternative to their fresh cousins. Frozen vegetables offer the perfect solution to wastage and running short problems. You can buy more than enough for your needs to ensure you won’t run our, plus, there’ll be no wastage, win-win.

Frozen vegetables offer several advantages over fresh vegetables, including:

  • Frozen vegetables are ‘flash frozen’ on the day of purchase, usually within a couple of hours of being picked. This instant freezing’ locks the nutrients in and keeps the vegetable fresh. Fresh vegetables are usually in transit for several days, sit in a warehouse for a day or two before finally be delivered to your supermarket.

In fact, a study conducted by the Institute of Food Research on the loss of vitamins and nutrients made some interesting points ‘fresh ‘ vegetables. The study found that the lengthy transit time of fresh vegetables can result in significant loss in certain vitamins; specifically :  green beans can have lost up to 45 per cent of nutrients, broccoli and cauliflower 25 per cent, garden peas up to 15 per cent, and carrots up to 10 per cent.

  • Frozen vegetables have a shelf life of several months.
  • Frozen vegetables are comparable in price to fresh and in many cases are actually cheaper.
  • Frozen vegetables are not seasonal sand are amiable all year round.

The one notable downside of  frozen vegetables that many have reported, is that freezing slightly alters the taste and texture of the vegetable. I personally haven’t noticed this and actually find the taste of some frozen vegetables to be superior (broccoli and carrots are a good example).

Of course, minimizing your wastage is also eco friendly with less waste being sent the rubbish dump.

#4 Mix Your Protein Sources

My final tip for helping to keep your grocery bill to a minimum is concerned with ‘smart’ buying your most expensive food item – protein.

Mix your protein sources to save yourself a few bucks

An average bodybuilder will consume some 300g+ protein daily from various sources, the most common being:

Item Protein g Cost £ £/300g protein
Chicken 23/100 £1/100g £13.04
Eggs 8.5 per egg 30p per egg £10.59
Peanut butter (organic) 26/100 70p/g £8.08
Tuna 27/100 70p/100g £7.78
Whey 85/100 £13/Kg £4.59

That’s quite a variation in the daily cost of protein, in fact almost £8.50/day between the lowest (Whey) and the highest (chicken).

I’ve presented a small comparison of the most common protein sources used by bodybuilders but hopefully you can see that by mixing your protein sources, you can make daily savings that will quickly add up.

Obviously, you’re choice in protein sources is influenced by more than just price, individual taste and macro-nutrient balance need to be considered but I want you to appreciate the significant difference in protein costs.

Now please don’t shoot me down on these figures, they are presented as an example of my own experience only. I’m sure if you shop around for the best offers you’ll be able to find lower (or even higher) prices at any given time.

I’m showing these figures simply to illustrate the significant variation in the cost of different protein sources and how bearing this in mind when making your choice can have a notable effect on cost.

Final Word

There you go then 4 practical, doable tips to help minimize your grocery bill. By buying in bulk and minimizing your waste, you’re helping to cut your costs from both ends.

One last recommendation, if you can afford one and have the space, buy yourself a small second freezer. Mine is always packed with chicken, lean mince, fish and frozen vegetables so I never run short of supplies!

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Rob is a firm believer that a bodybuilding diet doesn’t have to based around boiled chicken and veg.

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Comments (5)

  1. posted by Snape on May 18, 2012

    Wow, some really good pointers there, much appreciated.

  2. posted by DanK on May 26, 2012

    Hey Rob – thanks for the great article! Really helpful…

    You’d be surprised how many people have no clue that they can save by talking to their local supplier. It’s best to stay away from the big box shops anyways, you think you’re saving but most of the time you’re not! Plus the quality of product or meats at big chains aren’t that great to begin with.

    Making friends with your local butcher or going to your farmers market can save you BIG money, especially if you become a regular and just ask for better pricing like you outlined in your post.

  3. posted by Esteban G on June 11, 2012

    Like #4. I think I can save a good deal if I take this into account for 1 or 2 big meals each week.

  4. posted by Cameron on June 16, 2012

    Hey Rob, thanks for the tips and awesome to see that you’re in the UK – I just moved here and I’m still trying to find a good place to buy meat in bulk here in London.

    Do you know of any good butchers in the W2 area of London (or near enough to make a monthly visit) that you’d recommend?

    Not really loving the meat from Tescos!!


    • posted by Rob Connor on July 13, 2012

      Sorry, I’m in South Wales, couldn’t recommend anywhere in London.

      Your best bet is to take a walk around your local area, you’re bound to come across a butcher soon or later. You should be able to cut a good deal if you’re buying enough meat.

      I’m sure you’re butcher will be very accommodating for some bulk buying, especially in these tough economic times.

      Good luck, lets us all know how you get on (add another comment to this post).


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